Dancing on Ice 2018 champion, Jake Quickenden talks to Quays Life about making his musical theatre debut in the 50th anniversary tour of musical Hair, produced by Hope Mill Theatre owners, Joseph Houston and William Whelton.
Why did you want to part of this production of Hair?
Well, I’ve always wanted to get into musical theatre. I’ve been in reality shows, starting with the X Factor, so for me it’s now about being a bit more credible and showing I have got talent. It’s about testing myself.
Do you feel under pressure to prove yourself, then?
No, I never feel I have to prove anything to anyone but myself. I’m not really bothered what anyone else thinks about me. People might say they wouldn’t do reality shows, but I think they’re probably all lying! If you get offered money to go on a TV show and have a laugh for three weeks, you’re going to do it!
What’s the story of Hair?
We play a group of hippies who love getting high and don’t want to go to war. The Vietnam War is raging and we’re all rebelling against that.
The show is full of important messages about free love and things we’re still fighting for today. We’re still fighting for everything that they were fighting for back then. We’re still fighting racism. We’re still fighting for gay rights. We’re still fighting against wars. Everything is still so relevant. Conformity is a massive part of the show too. People don’t always want to conform. I think it’s really important to be individual.
You’re playing Berger. What’s he like as a character?
He’s mental… which is perfect for me. He’s the one they all look to for playing up the most and being the most rebellious, so I get to be a bit of a loose cannon. Everyone thinks that I’m in character the whole time, but I’m just being myself!
Are you excited about touring?
I am. I’ve done tours before, so I’m used to living out of my car. I’ve been doing it for about two years now! But I miss my girlfriend and my mates. I’m looking forward to touring the northern areas, because I’m from Scunthorpe. With my accent, I’ll be at home wherever we go up there.
How important is touring theatre?
It’s massive. Not everyone can afford to get to London. Not everyone can afford to stop over in a hotel in London. It’s massively important to give each city a chance to see amazing productions.
Is there anywhere you’re particularly looking forward to playing?
Manchester crowds are always great. They always bring energy. When I did my tour, Manchester was definitely the best crowd. And it’s a bit of a home away from home as I lived there for a bit as well.
You started out as a footballer. What do your football mates think of the move into musical theatre?
They always knew that I was a bit of an exhibitionist; I’m always the centre of attention. They think it’s great. Musical theatre is very different to how people might imagine it. The mad talent that you get in these shows is amazing. Everyone’s so talented.
You’ve appeared on The X Factor, I’m a Celebrity Get Me out Of Here and Dancing on Ice. Looking back, how were your reality TV experiences?
I appreciate The X Factor because it landed me where I am now. But I just wish that I’d done a better job there because I don’t feel that I did myself justice. But it has led me to amazing things, so I can’t really say anything bad about it.
Dancing on Ice is definitely much harder than a lot of people think. I trained for 8 hours a day on that show. It was tough but it paid off. I believe that, in life, if you put work in then you get a lot out.
And I’m a Celebrity was just fun. Seriously, I’ve been on worse holidays. It was amazing. I just chilled in a hammock and ate rice and beans. I felt like Bear Grylls.
What do you think makes theatre special?
The world is run by technology. Everyone’s on their phones or watching Netflix. So it’s great to see actual talent perform live on stage – a production where everyone is working hard. It’s a fantastic excuse to get dressed up, have a few glasses of prosecco, come watch an amazing show and get lost in theatre.
What can someone expect from a trip to see Hair?
They can expect to go on an absolute trip, a journey of euphoria, amazing songs and incredible acting. They’ll just go into another world.
Hair is at the Palace Theatre, Manchester from 8-13 April 2019.